I realize you're a busy man, and I won't be offended if this email is also unanswered. But I've been enjoying your website very much and noticed that you said you believe in evolution while being a Christian.
Can you explain how these two seemingly disparate beliefs can be reconciled?
I would GREATLY appreciate it if you could answer, thank you.
I don't see how the two beliefs are contradictory at all. The only thing evolution conflicts with is a literal interpretation of Genesis 1, which I don't hold to in the first place. Evolution, if true, doesn't disprove God or the resurrection of Jesus, and the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus don't disprove evolution.
Thanks for getting back to me, I really appreciate it and respect your views.
What would you say to a skeptic (I am a believer, btw) who might accuse us of conveniently saying some parts are figurative, some literal, to fit our needs? And what about the incorrect order, e.g., plants coming before the sun (how did photosynthesis take place)? How can we know whether or not to interpret Genesis 1 literally or not...are we letting what science tells us dictate that? Or is there a firm reason to believe it's all allegory?
Are Adam and Eve figurative as well? Or do they just happen to be the first official homo sapiens who were gifted language, etc.? Then again, they can't be figurative if they had actual children, a lineage, and sin history...
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts, especially since I might need to have justifications for what they ask me in the future (I have an atheist friend who has a lot of trouble with the apparent conflict between the Bible and evolution). I'm definitely looking into things on my own, but you definitely think of good points and arguments that I wouldn't have otherwise come up with.
Thanks for your time!
"What would you say to a skeptic (I am a believer, btw) who might accuse us of conveniently saying some parts are figurative, some literal, to fit our needs?"
I'd say it's best to simply go where the evidence points. I definitely feel that the evidence points to God's existence, and to Jesus' resurrection, but I don't feel it points to a literal interpretation of Genesis. If Genesis were literal, and the universe is only a few thousand years old, then we wouldn't be able to see stars that are more than a few thousand light years away, since their light wouldn't have reached us yet. Yet we can see stars that are millions, and sometimes even billions, of light years away.
"How can we know whether or not to interpret Genesis 1 literally or not...are we letting what science tells us dictate that?"
If the scientific evidence clearly points to something being true, then I think it's wise to believe it's true. It's okay to be skeptical of what science tells us (after all, it's been wrong about a lot over the years), but the universe certainly does appear to be more than a few thousand years old.
"Or is there a firm reason to believe it's all allegory?"
Keep in mind that Jesus used allegory to teach us things, such as the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Sower of Seeds, etc. Saying that a given is allegory doesn't mean it's false, just that it's not meant to be taken literally.
"Are Adam and Eve figurative as well? Or do they just happen to be the first official homo sapiens who were gifted language, etc.? Then again, they can't be figurative if they had actual children, a lineage, and sin history..."
I lean towards them being figurative, a story meant to represent man's acquiring of an understanding of good and evil, something no other creature on Earth has. Where the Biblical stories move from figurative to historical, I'm not quite sure, but I accept much of early Genesis as figurative, while I believe the stories of Abraham, Moses, and David are certainly historical. One important criteria (though not the only one) is the relationship between the author and the events being described. If the story takes place in the author's recent history, in roughly the same location in which the author lived, then it's probably literal. But Moses, who probably wrote Genesis, couldn't have been anywhere near the early events in Genesis. He doesn't seem to know where Eden is, or exactly when it took place, but it certainly wasn't within a few generations of his time.
Obviously, a lot of Christians will disagree with me on my views on Genesis, and I'm absolutely not saying that I'm right and they're wrong. But I try to go where the evidence, as I see it, points, and I don't see the evidence favoring an Earth that's only a few thousand years old.
Again, thank you for your response. I hesitated on whether to write you back again because I know it must get tiresome at times, but just wanted to bring up a few more points...I hope I don't butcher it too much with my paraphrasing.
I'm currently reading "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist," and it brings up a lot of good points (proofs?) that evolution is unsubstantiated and in fact, counterintuitive. For instance, the fact that in order for it to work in the first place, science needs to demonstrate that it can create life out of nonlife (not just organic out of inorganic). The composition of two bodies might be the same, but one could be alive and the other dead. Also, while microevolution almost certainly happens, there seems to be genetic boundaries that inhibit the transition to another kind of lifeform altogether. Science simply extrapolates that since micro-evolution happens, macro-evolution must happen in the long run as well. This should not be a given. And the authors also point out that structural similarities in fossils is an unreliable and speculative form of proof that one led into the other.
With the age of the universe question, that's a tough one indeed. As for radiometric dating, one could argue that we simply don't know if the half-lifes of elements always remained constant, especially if we're looking into a distant past when the element (and its half-life) might not have reached its stable form and equilibrium yet. The fossil record issue, I still think that the global flood--an unprecedented and unrepeated event in history--could have altered the composition of the layers we rely upon, or even the earth itself.
The existence of stars millions/billions of light years away, that is a very tricky one, and I agree a compelling case. Maybe the only possible explanation is that if Genesis 1 was literal in any way, God could have formed the universe not at a constant rate (at which we could measure or calculate), but formed in a state that could support life and the way orbits run, etc. In other words, just as Adam was formed a full-grown man--and by all appearances, had a certain age already, even when first created--maybe the universe was given an appearance of age because it had to reach a certain state before it could sustain life and itself.
I have no firm basis for the above, of course, but I just like to consider what's possible. In the end, the age of the world question is probably unanswerable, but that doesn't really bother me in the least. I always like to imagine that one day, in heaven, we'll have some big Q&A session or something and have the deepest mysteries finally solved.
Thank you for your time, I truly do appreciate it. You've helped me in my spiritual walk already, and I hope you keep it up whenever possible.
"For instance, the fact that in order for it to work in the first place, science needs to demonstrate that it can create life out of nonlife (not just organic out of inorganic)."
Actually, Abiogenesis is a completely different theory than evolution, and neither one is dependent on the other. Abiogenesis has to do with how life showed up in the first place, and evolution has to do with what happened to life after it showed up. And I do agree that abiogenesis is a theory with very little evidence to support it, and any rational person should be skeptical of it. When the theory first arose, it was believed that the most basic life forms were very simple, but we've since learned that they're actually quite complex. And the spontaneous generation of a life form complex enough to be capable of reproduction? I find that practically a miracle in and of itself. I definitely believe that God created life, either directly (literally creating the original life forms) or indirectly (putting processes in place to make the eventual creation of life inevitable).
"Also, while microevolution almost certainly happens, there seems to be genetic boundaries that inhibit the transition to another kind of lifeform altogether."
The problem is that we have the fossils of the earliest life forms, and they are much simpler than the creatures we have today. If God created all creatures roughly as-is, and all at roughly the same time, then all creatures that exist today would been among the earliest creatures to exist, wouldn't they? We would be finding humans, lions, bears, dolphins, etc. among the earliest life forms. In fact, we'd expect to find more fossils of humans, lions, etc., since they are relatively big creatures, so they're going to leave bigger (thus easier to find) fossils. But instead, the oldest fossils are of much simpler, much smaller, creatures. That's really pretty clear evidence that the earliest creatures on Earth were very simple and very small in comparison to what we have today. That creatures went from simple and small to complex and large really isn't in any doubt. Whether "evolution" was the mechanism that drove the process may be questionable, but I really don't see any other theory that explains it as well. The theory of young-earth Creationism, that all creatures were created roughly as-is and all at the same time, really doesn't match up to what the fossil record shows. People who believe in young-earth Creationism are put into the position of having to "explain away" the evidence, and I've always felt that it's better to go where the evidence points.
There is a lot that evolutionary theory tries to explain and, in my opinion, fails, suggesting other forces at work than natural selection. For example, when a bee stings a creature, the bee dies. How could evolution come up with a form of self-defense that is fatal to its host? While I can see how it benefits the hive as a whole, evolution tends to breed out things that kill the individual.
Also, much of morality is counter-intuitive to evolution. For example, why is it considered noble for a person to risk or give their life for a stranger, the way police, firefighters, and soldiers do? I can understand why risking or giving your life for your FAMILY is a good thing evolutionarily-speaking, since it helps your genes to get passed on to another generation, but when you lay down your life for a non-family-member, then you're preventing your genes from being passed on, while allowing someone else's genes to be passed on instead. Evolution tends not to favor that kind of thing. At most, doing this should be a neutral act, but really, it should be considered a bad thing. But it's not. Pretty much everyone sees it as noble. Evolutionary theory has no explanation for this.
"The fossil record issue, I still think that the global flood--an unprecedented and unrepeated event in history--could have altered the composition of the layers we rely upon, or even the earth itself."
However you slice it, if all creatures came to exist at roughly the same time, we'd expect to be finding all types of creatures at all layers of the fossil record. Even if the fossil record somehow shifted, there really shouldn't be ANY layer at which we exclusively see small, simple creatures that no longer exist. We're seeing a clear simpler-to-more-complex transition over the fossil record, and simply saying that the flood shook everything up doesn't explain why this is so.
"The existence of stars millions/billions of light years away, that is a very tricky one, and I agree a compelling case. Maybe the only possible explanation is that if Genesis 1 was literal in any way, God could have formed the universe not at a constant rate (at which we could measure or calculate), but formed in a state that could support life and the way orbits run, etc. In other words, just as Adam was formed a full-grown man--and by all appearances, had a certain age already, even when first created--maybe the universe was given an appearance of age because it had to reach a certain state before it could sustain life and itself."
Even if so, we still wouldn't be able to see stars more than a few thousand light years away. Even if God created stars that are fully-formed and capable of sustaining planets with life on them (I imagine that "young stars" wouldn't be capable of such), then why is it necessary for us to see the stars that are in distant galaxies that have absolutely no bearing on the sustaining of life on Earth, or even outside of their solar system, itself?
If the universe isn't billions of years old, it sure appears to be. And I can't imagine any reason why God couldn't have created the universe so that it appears to only be a few thousand years old, if he indeed did so. Why not just make it so that we can only see stars that are a few thousand light years away?
While I can understand why Adam would have to appear to be an adult in order to survive (human babies are quite helpless), I can't understand why our universe would have to appear to be billions of years old in order for life to exist. Basically, if the universe isn't really billions of years old, then God has done a very good job of making it appear to be. What would His motive be in doing so?
"In the end, the age of the world question is probably unanswerable, but that doesn't really bother me in the least."
I agree. I definitely believe that God exists, and is ultimately responsible for all life on Earth, whether He created it directly or put the processes in place to make it inevitable. How He did it, I don't know. While I obviously believe that there is some truth to evolutionary theory, the idea that it all just happened by random chance, without any hand of the divine in the process, is ridiculous. It's like saying the Mona Lisa was created by an explosion in a paint factory. God exists. Jesus was resurrected. Evolution, true or not, doesn't touch upon either issue.
I guess it bothers me a bit that people turn evolution into a stumbling block, that there are people out there who say "I can't believe in evolution, since I'm a Christian", or, worse, "I can't believe in Christianity, since I believe in evolution". I'm trying to show these people that you can believe in both. Though I do suppose that if someone must believe in one but not the other, I'd rather they believe in Jesus.
A book you might like if you want to see mainstream science reconciled with Christianity is "The Language of God" by Francis S. Collins. Collins is a geneticist who led the project that mapped the human genome in the nineties, and is a former atheist. The book pretty much argues that mainstream science, even with the acceptance of evolution (which he does), clearly points to a divine creator for the universe and life itself.
As always, I appreciate your very thoughtful answers. I guess my weird mind is just always able to think of alternative explanations (even to your latest response, but I'll spare you heh). The fact that my limited mind can do so suggests to me even more strongly that a much greater, infinite mind, could very well do things in ways we can't understand. Or even in ways that appear contrary to what we see.
Thanks for that book recommendation, I'm very curious to read it. Perhaps even my atheist friend (who almost instinctively brushes aside anything written by a believer as "biased") will be interested enough to read it based on the author's credentials.
Appreciate it, bro. Keep up the good work! Whether we're wrong on these inessential details, I'm sure God respects and appreciates our efforts to more fully understand.
Oh and by the way, I found a book called "I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist" to be really helpful as well. They pretty much try to go logically, step-by-step, to proving the case for Christian faith. Better than most other books I've read on the subject.